POL 241: Global Political Economy - Fall 2020

General Information

Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Room TBA

This course is an in-depth examination of theories that seek to explain how political systems address economic inequality, development, trade, labor relations, investment, migration, and natural resources, with applications to contemporary international politics. 

The course will meet regularly on campus as a regular fall semester course. At the end of the fall 2020 semester the course will travel as a group to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, sometime in December and January, for a two week series of site visits over the winter break. Both the fall semester course meetings and assignments as well as the travel component are required elements of the course. Site visits in Vietnam will include governmental and non-governmental development, public health, and infrastructure projects; private firms producing for local and export markets; meetings with former government officials; and meetings at a Vietnamese university. Students in the Marymount program will work with local Vietnamese university students on a series of group investigations. 

This course meets Marymount's "Global Perspectives" and "Advanced Social Science" requirements. 

Students must apply for the course through the Center for Global Education.  

The course last traveled to Vietnam in January 2018; the photo album from that trip is at http://www.marymount-vietnam.net. I will update the travel album during the upcoming trip as well. 

Course Assignments and Grades

Course grades will be based on a weighted average of the following:
  • 3 exams. 15% each, 45% total. The first two exams cover basic concepts in political economy; the third exam will cover the history and politics of Vietnam. For each exam, students will answer their choice of any 5 short essay questions taken from a list of 8. I will provide a list of key terms before each exam. On exam days, class will begin at 11.  
  • 3 papers, 15% each, 45% total. Each paper is 5-8 pages long and covers a specific contemporary issue that can serve as an example of a general theory of political economy. Each paper will be written by referencing at least two academic political science articles and at least three newspaper or other journalistic sources. I will provide students with a list of academic articles to choose from. 
  • 2 travel journal assignments, 5% each, 10% total. Each travel journal assignment includes several components, including written descriptions and photos, with each journal assignment accounting for about 1-2 pages of writing.  
Extra credit:
  • Class participation. Students may earn up to 5% for sustained, constructive contributions to class discussions. 
  • DC event. 5% for a first event and 3% for a second. Attend an event in the DC area on any aspect of international politics and write a blog post summarizing your experience. Specific instructions about attending and reporting on events will be on this page. Posts must be well-written to receive credit; I will send back poorly-written posts for revisions before they are accepted. You will receive 5 extra credit points for one event and post, and 3 points for a second. All blog posts must be submitted by the end of the semester. (Blog posts are kept private by default, but we may make selected posts public by mutual agreement.)   
Any student who misses 4 class sessions will lose 1/3 of a letter grade for the grade for the course. Any student who misses 5 class sessions will automatically fail the course. Any student who does not fully participate in the travel component of the course, or who significantly disrupts the site visits, will automatically fail the course. 

Any student who violates the code of Academic Integrity, by cheating on an in-class exam or plagiarizing a written assignment, will automatically fail the course. 

Students who fail the course automatically, due to poor attendance or an academic integrity violation, will not participate in the site visit to Vietnam and will not have the travel fees refunded. 


Three books are required for the course:
In addition, students should purchase:
    • guidebooks and city maps that cover the southern part of Vietnam (example)
    • practice chopsticks (example)
    • electrical adapters as needed (example)
Participants in the course should:
    • bring a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to use while in-country to communicate and to take pictures for photo essay assignments
    • be prepared for a physically-demanding program in a humid environment
    • bring walking shoes or boots and clothing appropriate for the weather
    • be prepared to eat food that may not be familiar
    • be prepared to be immersed, with an open mind, in a culture that may not be familiar  

Course Schedule

The coursework during the semester, on campus, is divided into three segments: trade, finance, and Vietnam. Each segment will end with a paper and an exam. 

Coursework on site in Vietnam will be during the winter break and will include a number of site visits. Specific details of the trip will be posted here in mid-November 2020. 

A detailed schedule of readings will be added to this schedule in summer 2020.

Week 1 - Introduction

(No class September 4)

Week 2 - Trade and society

Week 3 - Trade and political institutions

Week 4 - Trade and development

Week 5 - First exam, first paper due

Week 6 - Multinational firms

Week 7 - International finance

Week 8 - Finance and development

Week 9 - Second exam, second paper due

Week 10 - Vietnam to 1990

Week 11 - Vietnam's political institutions and development strategy

Week 12 - Regional security, China, and the United States

Week 13 - Climate change and migration 

Day of the final exam - Third exam, third paper due